As the summer winds down and my stomach thanks me for my generosity during three months of barbecues, graduation parties and neighborhood festivals, I am still proud of myself for shunning a food group that has burst into the culinary world and refuses to leave.
Quick English lesson: A portmanteau is two words combined to form a separate, third word. Portmanteaus range from the common -- a camcorder is simply a combination movie camera/tape recorder -- to the bizarre. To this day, I refuse to eat with a spork (spoon + fork) because the word just sounds annoying and I'm perfectly capable of operating two utensils at once.
Now portmanteau foods are everywhere. One can barely set foot in a restaurant or grocery store before encountering a dish comprised of two ingredients that appeared to run at each other full speed and, after a violent head on crash, settled onto a plate, or in a jar and said, "Eat me!"
In late June I contemplated a trip to Summerfest, Milwaukee's annual music, food and beer blowout. For those familiar with Milwaukee, the food and beer part actually occur year round; music is added in summer because no sane band would ever play Wisconsin in January.
My sister, fresh from a day at the festival, gave me a foodie tip:
"You HAVE to try the frachos."
"Frachos. It's a combination of French fries and nachos."
"And what patient-seeking cardiologist invented those?" I asked.
Frachos are the brainchild of Shane Valenti, owner/chef at Burke's Lakeside, a Summit, Wisconsin dining establishment that also features ribs braised in Pabst Blue Ribbon. Frachos consist of waffle cut fries heaped with cheddar ale sauce, bacon bits, sour cream and chives. At Summerfest, they vied with the Mac 'n Cheese Burger, another Valenti creation, for top seller at the Burke's booth.
Happily for my arteries, last minute scheduling conflicts prevented me from attending Summerfest. Several weeks later I was watching a Shark Tank rerun with my kids. Entrepreneur Julie Busha implored the sharks to invest in Slawsa, a combination slaw and salsa. The concoction has its own Facebook page, inviting visitors to have a "Slawesome" day!
Alas, the sharks were less than "sloverwhelmed," declining to back the product.
Taco Bell, a franchise I frequent maybe once a year, is always good for a portmanteau or three. Can't decide between a quesadilla and a burrito? No problem; the Quesarito is just what you're craving. Taco Bell lifers may also remember the Enchirito (enchilada + burrito), a staple of my high school diet.
Occasionally a portmanteau attracts the attention of professional foodies, who knock themselves over heaping praise on it. Witness the Cronut, (you figure out the word combo; it's not that difficult) invented by New York City chef Dominique Ansel and named by TIME magazine as one of the best inventions of 2013. For the record, an alcoholic coffee beverage also made the list but it didn't have a specific name. May I suggest Whiskeyatto, a morning drink for Starbucks customers already anticipating a bad day at the office? Also available with an extra shot. And whipped cream!
Culinary portmanteaus are becoming so popular, I began wondering if one could just request one at random. I decided to test my theory in an unnamed fine Chicago dining establishment.
"Ready to order?" the tuxedo-clad waiter asked.
"Yes, I'd like the flobster please."
"Excuse me sir?"
"Flobster. The filet mignon and lobster."
"So you'd like the surf and turf?"
"No, I want them smashed together."
"We don't serve flobster, sir."
"Fine. Bring me a lightly poached salmaccini."
"Salmon with fettuccini. I thought this was a five-star restaurant."
"Please leave, sir."
I'm all in favor of trying new delicacies but prefer my food on opposite sides of the plate, as opposed to heaped in the middle. If you agree, then, the next time someone offers you the latest trend in food combos, simply say, "Nanksiful."
That's portmanteau-speak for, "No thanks. I'm full."
Copyright 2014 Greg Schwem distributed by Tribune Content Services, Inc.